The uncanny valley

August 20, 2008

It’s a strange term, but one that fits, I think. The uncanny valley is the name given to that phenomenon that means the closer our IT generated humans get to looking photorealistic, the more repulsive they become. We end up with stunningly photo-realistic graphics for computer games and yet have humans that look less realistic than Yogi Bear.

Did you see The Polar Express? I didn’t because the characters’ eyes freaked me out. And I’m not the only one – click here for an interesting feature on the issue from an animator.

Well, this is the next step, meet Emily.

She seems like the real deal, although her mouth is wrong and her blink is too slow. Getting closer to the goal though. George Lucas would be proud.

Hat tip: Slashdot.

On Star Wars (the new lot)

November 3, 2007

As a late-comer to blogging I reserve the right to be late to a lot of other things as well. For instance, I’d just like to point you all to Jane Espenson’s blog. Jane is a TV writer (Buffy, Gilmore Girls and Friends and we’re so not worthy) and all round nice person if her blog is to be believed (and you can’t believe half of what you hear and none of what you blog) and she’s telling us all about writing.

Then there’s Neil Gaiman who is a God Among Men and Wil Wheaton who is a Geek Among Guys both also looking at the whole writing thing from their own perspective (and don’t you all find yourselves rooting for Wil as an actor/writer/husband/father as well? I know I do).

But writing itself is not what this post is about. No no. Don’t be fooled by the packaging.

It’s about Star Wars. More particularly, it’s about the prequels, the three new films. Specifically it’s about Why They Sucked.

First off, allow me to stipulate a few things.

Yes, I know I’m no longer in the target audience. I was, when Star Wars first came out and remember queuing up with my little brother to go and see said epic in North Wales.

Actually, the very first inkling of Star Wars came with a TV series called The Krypton Factor which aired in Britain that summer. As quiz shows go, it was pretty good. Contestants had to not only answer stupid questions and beat the clock but they had to solve IQ puzzles and do an assault course. They also had to watch a segment of film and answer a question.

The segment they showed on the first episode was the Cantina sequence. Then they asked the contestants to pick out the human bartender from a line-up. Ha.

Remember, this is 1977 Britain and nobody has any idea about anything to do with Star Wars, science fiction in general or blockbuster movies in particular.

Second point of stipulation: I have never made a movie in my life, couldn’t do it if you held a gun to my head (or gave me a big fat cheque) and George The Lucas can, and did, and is very successful at it, so clearly he’s onto something and I should shut my big fat mouth.

OK. The first movie – The Phantom Menace. OK, it’s about a trade dispute. OK, it’s about taxes, but you could see something glimmering under the surface… something nasty and lurking. There’s all that lovely talk about “the one who will bring balance to the force”. Then there’s whiny Anakin. Sigh. Do you remember the posters that came out? Anakin playing on what was clearly Tatooine with his shadow cast large on the wall behind him – and his shadow was Vader’s shadow? By the gods the hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I noticed that. They’re doing it now. Ooooooh.

Naturally, Qui Gon Jinn gets slaughtered, but he doesn’t disappear! This is a difference that made everyone in the theatre where I saw it sit up and say OMG! STFU! The Jedi don’t know how to do everything yet!

Then we have episode two or Attack of the Black Hawk Down Syndrome as I like to think of it.

Yadda yadda, story line, plot points, awful dialogue, sand is irritating just like me, etc. I’ll put up with that crap falling-in-love scene between Anakin and Padme because at one point you can hear Qui Gon clearly shout “Anakin, no!” and that was another goose bump moment. It’s OK, the boss is coming back to help sort things out.

And then he never does.

Instead, in the final movie we get Yoda telling Obi-Wan that soon he’ll be trained in the new strange ways that have never been mentioned before and he should go to the desert and become a hermit.

Puhleeze.

I wonder if Liam Neeson had some big ass falling out with Teh George himself.

Qui Gon should have been in the third movie. He should have been there explaining things.

And most importantly of all he should have been there explaining to Obi Wan that he, and Yoda, and possibly even Anakin himself knew what we all knew but dared not whisper: that Anakin DOES bring balance to the Force. That the overally goody-two-shoes Republic is stagnant and devoid of humanity and we need more than just plain niceness and “This is Jedi business, nothing to see here” crap.

Instead we get Darth Vader being born because his wife’s gynecologist can’t do a simple scan to see if there are twins on the way. Sheesh.

Given the movies that Neeson chose to be involved in following TPM and the roles he played (“Gangs of New York” and “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Batman Begins” in particular) you’d have to think he was rubbing someone’s nose in it. Could that nose by George’s?

That is all.